Archive for June 24th, 2009

Firefox in Context

June 24th, 2009

Mozilla’s mission is to build choice, innovation, participation and opportunity into the ways people interact with the Internet. The centerpiece is Firefox, because the browser is the lens through which people see and touch the Internet. Over time, people are doing an ever broader set of activities with the Internet. What does this mean for how we think about Firefox? Here’s what I see.

1. Firefox continues to be an exceptional platform for delivering web applications to people. Firefox should help each web applications be the best it can be. That means features such as web compatibility, performance, and security remain central to our work. It means continuing to make the entire web platform richer, as we are doing with video and our standards work in general; Firefox 3.5 shows our leadership in these areas. It means effective and innovative user experience and features that help people get the most from their interaction with a website.

2. Firefox helps people manage information across multiple web applications. We all visit a variety of sites. The combination of those activities makes up a set of information that isn’t well managed by any particular site. A good example of how Firefox helps with this is the Awesome Bar, which makes it easy to revisit, group, label and manage information from multiple websites. It updates automatically and creates a set of information that reflects an individual person. An earlier example is the password manager, which helps people manage their identity across multiple sites. These features are broader than any one website and reflects a much fuller picture of me than a single website can.

3. Firefox incorporates web capabilities into its feature set. We’ve been doing this for a while, and I believe we’ll be doing more of this. An early example was building search into the browser as a feature. We’ve also done this with anti-phishing and malware features, where Firefox uses constantly updated aggregated information to protect people. Another example are the search suggestions that are generated as one types a search query in the Search Box. These browser features all make use of data provided in real-time, not built into the bits of Firefox.

Another way of incorporating web capabilities into Firefox is the real-time updating of a feature itself. The Firefox Add-ons system is one step, allowing people to add new features to their browser as those features are developed. A new, experimental example is “Ubiquity” which allows people to control the browser by typing commands such as “map 650 Castro Street” into a browser text entry field and seeing the results. Ubiquity commands are provided to the user as one starts to type a command; they are not determined at the time Ubiquity is installed on your machine. This means new commands can be added at any time, and are instantly available to the user.

We’re already thinking about data, services and their relation to online life. Our 2010 goals explicitly call out data and its management. But this may suggest that these things are distinct rather than interwoven. Data and services may be separate from the product we call Firefox in an architectural or technical or intellectual property sense. But they are not separate in how people experience the web. And so I believe we must think of all of these things — software bits, “services,” “data” — as facets of the Firefox product itself.

In summary, I’d describe the ongoing role of Firefox as follows.

Firefox enables the web and web applications to be ever more robust and exciting. The web enables Firefox to be more flexible, more agile and more responsive. Firefox builds an experience where the center of the entire system remains a person. Not a website, not a business, not a piece of software. The most important actor in the entire picture is a human being; an individual. You. Me. Each person living part of his or her life online.

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